Restaurateur and developer Mark D. Croce made a big personal investment in Buffalo last week when he bought the Statler Towers.
But the longtime city advocate just spent even more to buy a new mansion -- in the suburbs.
Croce paid $1.2 million Tuesday to buy a 12,800-square-foot home in the Summit at Scherff subdivision in Orchard Park.
He bought the house from Michael A. Kibler, president of Buffalo Newspress. Kibler originally listed the home in 2009 for $1.8 million. The annual taxes on the home are more than $41,000.
The purchase marks a big change for Croce, who touts his commitment to Buffalo, and especially to downtown, where he owns a condominium in City Centre at Main and West Chippewa streets and several Franklin Street restaurants.
He said he plans to keep that condo, maintaining his primary residence and voter registration in the city, even while also having the Orchard Park home. He compared the mansion to a second home in Canada, saying he bought it because he and his wife don't feel the urban condo lifestyle is ideal for children.
And he reiterated that the purchase of the contemporary home doesn't change his commitment to the city; nor does it interfere with or detract from his plans for redeveloping the vacant Statler, which he bought a week ago for $200,000, plus $500,000 in back taxes.
"I'm a city resident. I'm a city voter. This is where my base is," Croce said. "But this gives my family a chance to do what families do."
But it also comes as Croce is asking for more than $5 million from the city or state to stabilize the Statler and make critical repairs to its roof and terra cotta facade, which has been crumbling and falling to the ground.
City officials have said they are prepared to provide that money, if Croce can show them a comprehensive plan for the entire building. So far, though, Croce has said he intends to renovate and reopen the first two floors of the imposing edifice, saving the rest to be developed later, based on demand.
However, he stressed that his purchase of the home is completely separate from the Statler. "They're really not intertwined," he said. "Everybody has a private life, and everybody has a public life. The Statler is a business and has to justify its future on its own merits."
The five-bedroom, six-bathroom Orchard Park house, which is located on two acres, was built in 2001 by developers Dr. Edmund and Richard Gicewicz.
It features an indoor pool, hot tub and wet bar opening out to a courtyard with a koi pond, as well as a game room with a wet bar, a wine cellar, an indoor racquetball and basketball court, a home theater room, a gym and a locker room, and six fireplaces. Italian marble is scattered throughout. It also has in-law quarters and a generator.
Maybe more noteworthy for Croce is his new view of the Buffalo Niagara region. "It has the most fabulous view of our city," he said. "We've got a view of downtown that's like no other."
Most of all, he said, it gives his family -- which includes a 19-month-old son -- room to play and grow. "It's very difficult raising a child in a condominium environment downtown. There's nowhere for him to play or ride a bike," Croce said, noting that most downtown residents are either young professionals or "empty-nesters," not families. "This affords him that opportunity."